Any Experience With PreTeen Depression?

Not looking for medical advice, at all- my son has an appointment with his doctor this Friday, the soonest he could squeeze him in.

My 11 year-old son, for the past few days, complains of classic symptoms of depression- loss of interest in his hobbies, a pervasive feeling of sadness for an unknown reason, a feeling of general malaise, and periods of crying off and on. IANAD, but sounds like depression to me, or something like it. I wonder if it’s hormonal, seeing as how he has become more uh, mature, lately (with the closing of the bedroom door whereas before it never mattered).

He says that he doesn’t feel suicidal. I’d like to keep it that way. Yet, I know that many antidepressants can actually cause suicidal feelings in children. So that’s kind of scary. I know that there’s also talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral- I’m sure he’d benefit from that, so it’s something I will ask his doctor about.

Did you or your kid go through something like this?

I used to volunteer at a big brother program and I’ve seen boys like this and for the most part it’s 100% normal.

The most important thing to realize is a kid like that will have physical changes. Teens experience major hormone boosts. This means they can feel great one minute and bad the next, then back to great. This is nothing more than your body adjusting. In fact most people’s hormones don’t adjust to a norm till between 21 and 25, though it tapers off.

This is why teens tend to “FEEL” things or view the world with more angst than everyone else. It’s just physical adjustments.

Teens need more sleep and food as well. Often they don’t get what they need. The idea is don’t regulate this too much. Obviously your kid can’t starve himself or eat you out of house and home, but change is normal.

The biggest thing a kid needs is friends. He needs someone to talk to, and that someone isn’t a parent. This is hard for parents to accepts. Young adults AKA Teens don’t want to talk to their parents about things. Often the parent suddenly feels shut out. Friends become important at this stage. The talk often amounts to nothing really, but this is a start toward independence.

Teens want to seperate from their mother and fathers. The most important thing is to see that your teen has friends. It can also be an uncle or aunt or cousin or whatever. But whoever it most likely won’t be the parent.

I would be very cautious about putting a kid on antidepressents, unless it’s prescribed by a pyschiatrist, not your family doctor but a psychiatrist.

There is certainly no harm in taking your son to a counselor, they usually gather info and if it is needed refer to a psychiatrist to see if meds are needed. Contrary to TV and movies, it’s not easy to fool them they’re pretty on spot.

Boys are also different from girls. You have to draw them out, whereas girls will spit it out to you.

I wish you luck.

I’m a girl, but when I was a pre-teen I was ANGRY. I don’t remember why I was so angry but I was. I punched a hole in a wall in our house.

I do remember that I was being bullied by a boy in school. I was a fat kid (and am a fat adult) and he harassed me every day at lunch, and any time he saw me. It was miserable. I don’t even know if I told my parents or not.

Anyway, after I punched the wall, my folks sent me to a psychologist. I remember being severely angry during our session. I wanted to beat up the doctor. I then got angry at my folks afterwards, and never went to the psych again.

It was a really dark time but I don’t remember it being TOO prolonged. Like it was an out-of-body experience. I remember what I wrote above and that’s it. I don’t remember how or why I “snapped out of it” but I totally did.

My depression started showing up around fourth grade. We’d moved, and I was fat too, and I didn’t handle things well. But those were more aggravation effects than a cause. I’m forty now and still have depression. When I was in fourth grade, no one sent their kid to therapy. It would have helped I think. I grew up assuming that I was looking at things logically but having nothing to really compare my experience to. When I started in with a good CBT therapist, I learned to see how I was misjudging things. It help me to realize that I wasn’t alone, that the thinking patterns I’d devleoped were quite well recognized.

I think asking his doctor for a recommendation for CBT therapy is a good idea. I hope it helps him. I think it probably would have helped me if I’d found it sooner.

I did. It probably started around when I turned 12, in my case. I didn’t think I could talk to my parents about it, and came a lot closer to killing myself as a teenager than I would have liked. I’m just glad now that they didn’t have any guns in the house.

I eventually got treatment for depression when I was in my 20s. When I finally did tell my parents, they just said, “Hmm, that’s nice”. I went through years of suffering with depression for nothing. :smack: It’s very good that your son felt he could talk to you about this. That’s a sign that you’re doing something right as a parent. (This is NOT to say that anyone whose kids can’t talk to them about this stuff is a bad parent. There’s a complex mix of personalities and life circumstances involved, nothing as simple as just a good or bad parent)

Unreasonably irritable moods are a symptom of depression that I’ve had. Of course, depression isn’t the only possible cause of anger or irritability.

I definitely feel worse when I’m sleep-deprived. When I was in college and chronically sleep-deprived, my depression would be much worse toward the end of a week than at the beginning.

If you have a depressed person in your house, IMO guns do not belong in your house, unless somebody’s job requires them. Guns and depressed people, especially depressed teenagers with their intense emotions and less impulse control than an adult would have, are not a good combination. If you use guns for a recreational activity, see if you can find a buddy who will store them away from your house, or see about renting outside storage. If your job requires you to have a gun in your house, make sure it is kept somewhere where the depressed teenager never has access to it. Don’t bet his life on his not finding where you hide it, either- it needs to be secured.

I think being supportive of him is the key thing as well as not demonizing ideas such as CBT, as my parents always were very anti-therapy because of the idea of “stigma”/“Shame” it might bring me later in life. Though I didn’t really have any depression in my pre-teen years, though I did have some mild dysthymiaduring my later teen years, and I worked through it myself in college- but I recall it being a lot tougher and a lot of the sense of being on my own- because I felt like I couldn’t really turn to my parents or authority for help. I eventually got through it but it wasn’t an easy road. So yeah, try to be supportive and understand- just in general staying on his side and willing to help however you can. Even if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting through- it’s a nice feeling to know that your parents do have your back, even if [the teenager] never shows it.

I too echo everyone above’s sentiments on being wary of anti-depressive medications. I would only do so if seen by a psychiatrist who can make a formal diagnosis/treatment plan as to why he wants to use them.

I can tell you from personal experience that being treated for depression is not enough to disqualify you from a job that requires a security clearance. The stigma associated with depression has been getting less over the years. The ignorant types who think it’s a “character flaw” or something you should just “snap out of” are going away.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure my depression started around the age of 10-12. By the time I was fourteen I was absolutely freakin’ miserable and came close to killing myself a couple of times.

When I asked to see a therapist, my mother’s response was that only weak people like my schizophrenic uncle get therapy. She said this right about the time she attempted suicide herself.

Looking back, I’m not sure much could have been done, since most of my problems were about things I couldn’t talk about without being removed from my home. But I do remember how much more it hurt to have my pain ignored.

So, my best advice is, don’t ignore it.

Thanks for all the responses so far. It sounds like this is very common for someone his age. The weird thing is that he can tell you the day it started- the symptoms are very clear cut to him. One day he felt one way, and the next he felt different. I’m treating it as any other medical condition- I never want him to feel ashamed of something like this and not talk to me about it and then one day I find him… shudder. Nope. He knows it’s a real illness and I know it helps that I’m treating it as such.

Yup, it was like a switch in me. One day I was fine, and then someone asked me to do something I wasn’t comfortable with and I just snapped. This was when I was 9. In large part due to my parents’ reluctance to admit I had a problem, I was never officially diagnosed and treated with medication until I was 11.

I just want to tell you that if a psychiatrist does decide he needs medication, not to dismiss it out of hand. I went on Paxil when I was about 11. At the time, there wasn’t any widespread research indicating it caused suicidal thoughts in teens. Now, they don’t recommend prescribing it to anyone under 18. But I never had suicidal thoughts.

It’s my understanding that prepubescent depression is rare, but I’m one of the exceptions too. My first suicide attempt was at age 9. I had two abusive parents, both of whom I realized later in life were undiagnosed depressives. And when I was diagnosed with major depression in my twenties, all of the symptoms that were noted were symptoms I remember having as early as 7 years old. I spent most of my Junior year in highschool in my dorm room, unable to get out of bed for days at a time.

Not sure if that’s of any use to the OP, but don’t dismiss real depression out of hand. Talk to a doctor; I certainly wish my parents had.

Kudos for taking your kid seriously. I, too, had depression issues at a very early age. Of course, at that time no one would have seriously thought a five-year-old could be depressed.

If it were me, I’d ask my doc for a referral to a psychiatrist experienced in dealing with kids. Actually, I’d ask for a therapist first before meds. But that’s just my opinion based on my limited knowledge of the risks of giving kids anti-depressants. I’d be more conservative considering that therapy (for adults anyway) has been shown to be just as effective as meds.

I had my first bout of depression at 11, and it was very much as your son described it.

In addition to what everyone else has said:

  • get him out in the sunshine
  • make sure he gets enough sleep
  • find physical activities to keep him busy and wear him out

I went through it; Middlebro went through it even earlier. At age 7, he wrote a poem about how the seven dwarves had a free child-sized bed when Snow White dropped by, because they had been eight until one of them killed himself: Mom still gushes over how that poem was The Cutest Thing Evah, because she used to write badly-rhymed love poems when she was 15, you see, so this is the same.

In our case, we got through with no medical intervention and with our parents either not realizing what was going on or studiously ignoring it. Thank you for doing better!

Both Middlebro and I get out of depression by getting angry. At some point we start seeing the depression as “damnit, I’m being silly here” (warning: that doesn’t mean anybody who’s depressed is being silly) or the external causes of it as “damnit, I’m not going to let that motherfucker get his way,” and we get pissing-mad angry and sort of bounce out. But that’s us, Dad would go from “depressed” to “normal” and Mom’s mechanism is more complicated.

I don’t have anything unique to add, really, except to say, ‘me too.’ However, I think it’s a great thing that you’re taking an active interest. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my mid twenties. But it was a great relief on some levels when I was because it was like a light bulb going on saying, ‘oh, this is what’s wrong with me, this explains so much.’

When I was in fourth grade is when they diagnosed me depressed. My mom was sick and in and out of the hospital and I as the oldest girl, was doing the cooking, cleaning, caring for the baby, etc. With some therapy (and my mom’s return to the house), I got better for a while… then the bipolar kicked in…

Why Am I Still Depressed? talks about that, how kids who are depressed at a young age often end up bipolar later in life.

I don’t mean to diverge with what everyone else is saying, but you know some great physical activity could really help. Burning the testosterone is something great to do, especially if it something that he enjoys to do like bike riding, football, something very physical.

a) Up until the point that he is completely UNABLE to come out from UNDER the bed or to reply other than in monosyllables to any inquiry, I would absolutely NOT assume the existence of a biochemical illness of the brain. Your kid does not need a dose of mind-altering pharmaceuticals or a label that might stalk him for the rest of his life.

b) That doesn’t mean it isn’t serious or won’t lead to suicide. Misery, despondency, sadness, loneliness, preteen angst, etc of the nonclinical variety can and has caused self-destructive behavior as well as being awful to endure. Lots of it is caused by context (social, academic, etc) and I would always assume something is GOING ON to cause an emotional state until overwhelming evidence indicates otherwise. He may need someone to talk to, and that someone may, for a variety of reasons, need to not be you. On the other hand I would not assume that he doesn’t need to talk to you about stuff, either.

c) Life in general is not for the timid, youth and childhood can be worse than adulthood, and there is no shortage of people who have condemned modern life as being unfit for human habitation. Some find it most useful to analyze the world and take on a bit of an adversarial relationship to some of its structures (ceasing to blame themselves or to continue to be passive victims) while others find it more useful to understand, accept, and cope with the world in a less politicallly / socially activist kind of way.

d) Emotions themselves are raw & powerful things; they may not be sicknesses or symptoms thereof but that doesn’t make them party bonbons either. Unpleasant emotions are the human brain’s way of poking at itself to make adjustments and changes, both internal and external, and can be no more easy to endure than the pain of a bad burn. When I urge people to not medicalize them, it is NOT because I think they should be considered MORE trivial than a disease symptom but rather becasue I think they should be considered LESS TRIVIAL than any mere disease or disease symptom. Unlike the latter, they convey cognitive information.

Alice, I read that early depression often manifests itself as guilt. Keep that in mind as you keep an eye on him.

Make yourself as open to him as possible. You might even ask his teachers CONFIDENTIALLY to keep an eye out for any bullying.

If this lasts longer than a month or two, you might want to talk with a professional about it.